French court has Google in the dock

Saturday 22 October 2011 23:17

A French court has ordered Google Inc to pay 5,000 euros (£4253) in libel damages to a man who claimed that searches for his name automatically yielded a list of harmful suggestions.

The man, whose name was not given, said the suggested terms that came up when typing his name on - including the words "rape," "rapist" and "prison" -- were damaging for his reputation, court documents showed.

The man had previously been condemned to a prison sentence on charges of corrupting a minor, the documents showed.

The decision, reported on Saturday in the online edition of Le Monde newspaper, was published in court documents dated September 8 on the French legal web site Legalis. Google confirmed the decision in an email on Saturday.

The court decision came as Google faces demands from Germany's government to come up with privacy guidelines amid controversy about its Street View service, a virtual tour of cities based on photographs taken in the street.

In its decision, the Superior Court of Paris ordered Google to remove the "harmful" suggestions from the search and pay the man 5,000 euros in damages, while saying the search term suggestion function was not illegal in itself.

A Google spokesperson said the firm would appeal the decision.

"It is important to point out that Google Suggest is an aggregate of the most popular searches based on past requests from users. Google does not suggest these terms," the company said in an email.

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